Updated: Nov 7, 2018
"You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give" Winston Churchill
/share a meal. give a meal/
The Calgary Drop In Center is a community serving agency that supports those experiencing homelessness to find stable housing. Most people in Calgary have walked past the DI at some point in the travels or at least know about the big building near East Village downtown that houses a diverse group of people. A group of people experiencing homelessness, some of them struggling with addictions, and with mental health disorders. People with incredible lives and stories of hardship. A group of people trying to get back up on their feet while facing poverty, isolation, and stigma, something most of us could never imagine living through. But these individuals DO live through it, and with the right supports, they can make it to stable housing.
The Calgary DI serves approximately 3200 meals daily, plus 1000 take out lunches.
Talking to children about the concepts of homelessness and poverty can seem like a daunting task. We can often assume they will not understand, that they are too young to connect with the concepts, or that uncomfortable conversations will take place.
So how do we engage with our children about social issues, such as homeless and poverty, while making it age appropriate and maintaining the dignity of the people we are talking about?
I think we take baby steps. We connect kids with the concepts that they can already relate to (needing shelter, food, and warmth) and introduce them to concepts they might not yet be too familiar with (where we get money from, what we need money for, and why someone might not have money). We engage them in conversations while providing them a safe place to ask questions, and they ask gooood questions. And we answer them.
I always find November and December an amazing time to start talking about giving, about supporting, and about community, about ALL the members of our community. With the holidays fast approaching, the conversations and experiences often center around gifts and what our kids will want, and how to make the holidays a magical experience for our family. In an attempt to balance that, last year we started having a weekly gathering focusing on engaging our kids, where we discussed social issues in our community and how we can give back (Side note: this was where the inspiration for starlings started from:)
So, when a group of 4-6 year olds gets together, magic can happen. An intimate group of kids came together to learn about the Calgary Drop In Center (plus a 2 and 3 year old who contributed to a beautiful card) and make sandwhiches for their clients (the DI site has a great information page on how to go about doing this). We read ‘Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen’, engaged in conversation about money and what kind of things we need it for, and why someone might be homeless. We chatted about how we can all make a difference in spreading love and in spreading good within our communities. The story brought about discussions on why you might walk the other way when someone different walks towards you (‘feeling scared’), how you might feel sitting next to people you do not know during dinner as those needing a shelter might feel (‘nervous, shy’) and how we can all come together as a community to support one of our members when they need it. 70 sandwiches, 2 dozen high fives, and happy lil bunch later, they did it. Little kids making a big difference. Kids are amazing.
Have a great weekend spreading good:)